In Italy 384 journalists threatened in 2021, Ossigeno observatory list them

Ossigeno‘s annual data on intimidation of journalists and bloggers – 27% are women – the regions with the highest intimidation pressure – a record number of reckless lawsuits and threatened journalists

384 media workers were hit by threats and intimidation in 2021 in Italy. This overall figure is the result of the annual mapping update, conducted by the NGO Ossigeno Observatory for Information on the data released in December 2021 (read here).

OSSIGENO May 3rd 2022 – In 2021, in Italy, Ossigeno per l’Informazione identified and reported 384 threats and intimidations against as many journalists, bloggers and other media workers, committed in violation of Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights, aimed at hindering the right to information and freedom of expression. This data updates and replaces the provisional toll of 301 threatened reported in December 2021. The general picture shows some data that arouse particular concern: 1) in Italy the intimidating pressure on reporters remains high; 2) threats to journalists are increasing; 3) Lazio is still the region with the highest number of threatened journalists, but in Sicily, Puglia, Abruzzo, Basilicata and Campania there was a higher intimidation pressure.

COMPARISON WITH PREVIOUS YEARS – In 2019 Ossigeno had identified 472 threats and in 2020 it had identified 495. In 2021 the number of fewer threats identified by Ossigeno (384) is due to the greater difficulties of detection due to the pandemic, to fewer resources used and to fewer observers. Nevertheless, Italy remains the European country with the highest number of threatened and police-escorted journalists. Check the figures 

INTIMIDATORY PRESSURE – Considering the relationship between the size of the journalism population and the number of information workers threatened, it is interesting to note that Sicily is the region with the highest rate of intimidating pressure: out of 4871 journalists registered with the regional order, in 2021 0.37% are threatened, followed by: Puglia (0.28%), Abruzzo (0.24%), Basilicata (0.21%), Campania (0.16%). Lazio, although it is the region with the highest number of threats recorded in 2021, has a lower intimidation pressure (0.15%).

JOURNALISTS. Threatened Italian journalists numbered 105, 27% of the total. This is the highest number recorded since 2006, the year in which Ossigeno inaugurated the monitoring of attacks on journalists. Compared to more recent years, the curve has risen constantly: in 2021 threatened information workers represented 26%, in 2020 22%, in 2019 23%, in 2018 21%. (Learn more here)

VERIFIED INCIDIENTS – All the incidents reported by Ossigeno have been verified. In 2021 Ossigeno conducted an in-depth examination of the intimidation of 136 of the 384 journalists and bloggers threatened. For the other 248 cases, Ossigeno was only able to carry out a less thorough examination which allowed them to be classified as cases of “probable violation”. This was because the Observatory did not have enough experienced observers to employ for this task. It therefore reported these cases and invited other organisations to examine them for a more complete assessment, also in order to establish whether the victims of these attacks needed support and assistance. (See here the table of names).

TYPE OF INTIMIDATION – In 2021, half of the intimidations (48%) were carried out with spurious lawsuits, i.e., abusing the right to sue for libel in order to hinder the publication of unwelcome news. A quarter of the threats (25%) are represented by warnings (anonymous phone calls and letters, insults on social media, death threats, etc.). The percentage of physical attacks (17%) is lower than in previous years (20% in 2020; 19% in 2019): this type includes punches, kicks, heads, jostling against men and women committed to documenting and reporting facts of public importance. According to the Ossigeno  Monitoring Method (see here), the remaining 10% concerned actions that cannot be prosecuted at the judicial level but by which access to information was arbitrarily and discriminatory impeded. 1% is represented by damage.

COVID, JOURNALISTS CHOSEN AS A TARGET – 69 recorded cases (17% of the total) concerned media workers engaged in  following demonstrations against the introduction of the EU Digital Covid Certificate or vaccination, or who documented the evolution of the pandemic . Intolerance of the reporting activity performed by journalists has grown higher over the course of the year: Ossigeno has documented insults and physical assaults, threats with mail bombing and audio messages. It happened, for example, to Antonella Alba (Rai News 24) and Francesco Giovannetti (La Repubblica), to Selvaggia Lucarelli (Domani), Gianpaolo Sarti (Il Piccolo), to Sara Sergi (La Stampa), to Marianna Aprile (Oggi) . (Read here all the stories documented by Ossigeno).

In light of these episodes, Ossigeno, already in December 2020, proposed a protocol to make the work of journalists working in public spaces reporting on demonstrations or other risky situations safer and how to prevent many attacks on journalists documenting Covid and protests.

LAZIO REGION THE MOST AFFECTED – The Observatory has focussed on the so-called Lazio case, already reported on from 2015 onwards. The region recorded the highest number of cases (22%) for the fifth consecutive year. Furthermore, in this region the intimidating lawsuits against journalists were more numerous than the national average (67% of the total threats are represented by unjustified and abusive lawsuits and legal actions, compared to the national figure of 48%) and also compared to the previous year (11% in 2020).

THE UNRESOLVED PROBLEM:  THE PROPOSALS – The 2021 data show 1) that the practice of hindering journalism with intimidation and threats is very widespread; 2) the problem of adequately counteracting these behaviours that damage citizens’ right to receive all information of public interest is current and remains unresolved. “It is a very serious social problem which – comments the director of Ossigeno, Alberto Spampinato – still does not get the deserved attention and, consequently, is not faced up to. Not enough is being done to enable media workers, both male and female, to provide all the news of public interest without fear of retaliation, intimidation, threats and spurious lawsuits. It would be enough to introduce – Spampinato re-proposes – an offence to punish those who obstruct freedom of expression and an aggravating circumstance for those who commit violence in order to prevent freedom of information, as we have proposed again together with the Rome Press Association “. Read here the proposal.

GPA

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